Have you ever felt a deep desire to have your beloved aromatic plants accompany you throughout your day? That’s what it’s like to wear natural perfume. 

Unfortunately, many modern perfumes found on today's store shelves contain synthetic ingredients that can be harmful to your skin, lungs, and the environment. In stark contrast, ancient traditional perfumes were crafted solely from pure, natural aromatic materials, many derived from botanical plants. How did we stray so far from these ancient roots of natural perfumery?

Since ancient times, humans have held a deep fascination and connection with aromatic materials. Aromatic herbs and spices have been woven into human culture since prehistoric eras, shaping civilizations and trade routes. The spice trade played a pivotal role in shaping the world as we know it today. But the significance of aromatic materials transcends mere culinary uses, extending into the realms of incense, medicine, and perfume.

Incense is the original form of aromatherapy and the original form of perfumery. Throughout history, societies burned raw aromatic plants to disinfect spaces during times of illness, drawing upon the antiseptic and antimicrobial qualities of plants like Frankincense and Myrrh. This practice endured into the 1900s, notably during World War II when hospitals employed plant-based fumigation.

In a spiritual sense, many cultures believe burning incense is like a rising prayer, with fragrant smoke symbolizing a bridge between the physical and spiritual realms. This reverence also permeated into perfumery, evident in the Latin root of "perfume" meaning "through smoke." In certain ancient societies, the terms "perfume" and "incense" were interchangeable.

A single vial of natural perfume encapsulates centuries of history, therapeutic influence, and spiritual connectivity. However, the key lies in the ingredients. To fully experience the beauty, therapeutic qualities, and spiritual depth of perfumery, it’s important to return to its natural roots. By solely utilizing aromatic materials sourced directly from nature, one truly enters the gateway to the realm of natural perfumery.

What is Natural Perfume?

Natural perfumery emphasizes sustainability, eco-friendliness, and a deep connection to nature. Most modern perfume uses lab-created synthetic compounds and chemicals, while natural perfumery relies solely on natural materials mainly derived from botanicals such as flowers, fruits, woods, resins, and spices. Historically, certain traditional natural perfumes also included animalic materials, though such substances are now deemed rare and seldom utilized in natural perfumes.

The majority of materials in natural perfume are from botanical origins, mainly essential oils and absolutes obtained by steam distillation, hydro distillation, CO2 extraction, cold pressing, enfleurage, or solvent extraction. These natural essences are blended to create different aromatic profiles and are often mixed with alcohol, carrier oils, waxes, or other natural substances, depending on the type of perfume. 

Perfume is a multi-faceted sensory experience that transcends merely a pleasing fragrance. Beyond its olfactory allure, a successful perfume must embody 3 essential qualities: an appealing scent profile, longevity, and complexity. First, it must possess a captivating aroma that resonates with the wearer and those around them, evoking emotions and memories. Natural perfume not only affects our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being but also influences our surrounding space, interpersonal interactions, and our wider environment. 

Second, longevity is crucial – ensuring that the fragrance persists throughout the day, maintaining its enchantment from morning to night. Finally, a perfume should show development over time, unveiling different notes and nuances as it interacts with the wearer's skin and body chemistry. This evolution adds depth and intrigue, enhancing the overall experience and leaving a lasting impression. In essence, a truly remarkable perfume marries these elements seamlessly, creating an enchanting sensory journey that delights the senses and captivates the soul.

Aromatherapy vs. Natural Perfumery: Differences & Purposes

Although perfume served as aromatherapy in ancient times and these modalities have been intertwined throughout history, they remain two separate entities. Aromatherapy serves as a form of functional medicine, targeting specific health issues and aiming to remedy them through the use of essential oils and aromatic compounds. Its focus lies in addressing ailments and enhancing overall well-being through targeted scent therapies. Oftentimes aromatherapy is very fleeting – as volatile oils can evaporate quickly – but sometimes all it takes is one inhale to experience the health benefits of aromatic compounds. 

On the other hand, natural perfume, while also harnessing the power of scent, is primarily crafted to endure, offering a lasting, pleasing olfactory experience. However, regardless of its intended purpose, the act of smelling something pleasant inherently impacts our health and well-being. Just as indulging in the aroma of freshly baked cookies can uplift the spirit and forest bathing can soothe the mind, even the simple act of enjoying a fragrance purely for its pleasant scent can have profound effects on our emotional and physical states. 

Combine this with the well-documented therapeutic benefits of many essential oils, and natural perfume offers a powerfully potent and enduring aromatic experience. Natural fragrances blend the art of perfumery with the science of aromatherapy, offering both sensory pleasure and tangible wellness benefits.

The Natural Perfumery Path

If the art and far-reaching influence of natural perfumery ignite your inspiration, you might find yourself drawn to take one step further on your aromatic journey. Becoming a natural perfume crafter offers a unique blend of beauty and joy, serving as both a creative outlet and a pathway to aromatic adventure and artistic expression. It's an opportunity to craft olfactory masterpieces, blending scents like a painter magically mixes colors on a canvas. It's a passion rooted in history and tradition, where the art and science of fragrance creation intertwine to become a profoundly transformational and artistic endeavor.

Video featuring JK DeLapp, L. Ac, DAOM

Article written by Melissa Szaro

© 2024 The Northwest School of Aromatic Medicine. All rights reserved.

*The statements above have not been evaluated by the FDA, and are for educational purposes only. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult your physician before you use this information for health purposes.

Follow Us On Social Media